I have always been frustrated by the numbers that were given to me by the online calculators. They always seemed WAY too high, and when I got anywhere near what they suggested I would start to gain again.
I was poking around on the net recently, and I found this link:
Interestingly, this calculator uses the Mifflin formula (which I had never heard of, either). Most calculators use Harris-Benedict. The problem with HB is that it estimates REALLY high for those who are out of the norm--and the 'norm' it uses is from something like 1919! Mifflin is updated, though. I've talked to friends of mine (who are weighlifters and weight-watchers) and they say that Mifflin seems to be much, much more in line with their experiences. You might try those numbers.
On a personal note, I can tell you that keeping your calories low will eventually bite you right in the butt. I got stuck on the idea of "eat less and move more", instead of understanding that my intake and my outgo (if you will) needed to be balanced. I have struggled with weight and exercise for a long time, and I have tried to keep my calories under 1500. When I had my calories under 1500, I would cut my workouts short, sit on the couch as much as possible during my day, and take 2-hour naps in the afternoon. I'd have no energy in the evenings, sit on the couch with my husband, and then go to bed at 10:00. I had NO energy! The thing was, I thought I wasn't supposed to have any energy, since I had a bigger body (5'9" and ~290 pounds). I went from my highest of 294 to 276 on 1500 calories/day, and it took me 6 months to do it because I was sleeping all the time!
When I realized it had taken me 6 months to take off 18 pounds, I decided something had to change. I looked at what I could do differently. My exercise schedule is, was, and has always been fine (I have a degree in exercise science) but my workouts were lacking luster. I decided to take a leap of faith and increase my calories.
It's only been 10 days of increasing calories (I try to break 1900 every day; I have 'food issues' after so many years of this, and can't do it all at once. My goal is to get up to 2100) but I have SO MUCH more energy now! It's amazing! I'm awake all day. Some days I'll have TWO workouts, because I just feel like I want to move. My house is cleaner than it has been in a long time. I am not desperately trying to clump together errands so I only have to go out once. Two days ago I actually walked to the postal center (about half a mile away) instead of driving to the post office!
Now, I can't tell you about weight loss yet. It's TOM and I've got the usual bloat, ugh. But I can tell you I'm holding steady around where I was before I started this--so if you figure in the bloat, I've possibly lost a bit!
Three more things to keep in mind:
1) a nutritionist long ago told me that if you've been restricting hard for a long time, sometimes the body will gain a pound or two while it figures out what you're doing when you start increasing calories. That's normal, and it'll drop again once your body turns up its metabolism.
2) 'starvation mode' as I understand it is the idea that your body will adjust its metabolism to the amount of food you consistently give it. If you've cut waaaay back and there's a day you just can't stand it anymore and eat, THAT is the day that you'll gain huge amounts of weight (even if your calories still are restricted). Say you cut calories to 1200 (something you should NEVER do, 1200 is waaaaaaaaaay low for someone our size). Your body turns its metabolism down to 1200, too. You're not losing, not gaining. Things are balanced. One day you're PMSing and you eat 2000 calories--still below "calculators", but more than you usually eat. Your body will store those 800 extra calories. This is how women "diet up to 300 pounds". Trust me, I've done it!
3) If you are going to eat that many calories, they must be CLEAN calories. You cannot eat 2000 calories of junk food! You'll store it in a heartbeat. Your body doesn't have anything to do with those calories. Your body has stuff to do with proteins and vitamins and fiber and phytochemicals. Twinkies, it doesn't have a use for.
Wow, I wrote an epic!